Local author, illustrator explore migrant workers’ lives through children’s book
By Lauren Renteria firstname.lastname@example.org
SIERRA VISTA — Diana Satterlee remembers seeing children come and go throughout the year in her Iowa classroom years ago.
Satterlee, who was an elementary school teacher at the time, taught students who were migrants.
They were the sons and daughters of migrant field workers, who would spend as much time as the seasons allowed before moving to another part of the country — to another school, to a completely different life.
It was all so their parents could make ends meet and provide for the children. That was about 15 years ago, Satterlee said.
It was her experience as a teacher and secondhand stories from Satterlee’s daughter about migrant workers that prompted the local author to write a children’s story called “A Migrant Story.”
Now, 15 years later, Satterlee has decided to team up with a local illustrator to bring her story to life and put the children’s book on shelves at local stores.
“When I lived in Iowa, I would have these kids, and they would be the same kids from October to winter,” she said. “They would leave and go somewhere else. They would always miss multiplication and they wouldn’t get a full education because they were always moving.”
The story follows one family of five as they travel across the country, looking for homes and work at farms across the country. The story is told through the eyes of the son, Pedro.
He’s a young Mexican boy who dreams of living in one home all year long. In his dreams, he has friends who he never has to say goodbye to and a tree house in the backyard of a house the family stays in.
It’s a dream that Pedro isn’t sure can come true, but is something he dearly longs for.
Throughout much of the book, which is filled with colorful illustrations by local artist Laura Jones Martinez, the family is on the road. Living in small houses not far from the farms on which Pedro’s father, Luis, and mother, Maria, work.
During their travels, the family reminisces on their Mexican culture and plans for the future from their trusty green truck, which holds all their possessions.
It’s not a sad story, Satterlee said, but is instead a tale about family, unity and love. “A Migrant Story” also shows that families are families, no matter where they come from.
The story shows that being different is OK.
“It’s about how parents care about their children,” she said. “This is about a particular family who has a route they travel every year. … It’s about the family and the situation of being a migrant and having to uproot your kids three, four or more times a year.”
The story is accompanied by vivid representations of family, their work and culture. Jones Martinez, the artist who created the illustrations, wanted to create a thoughtful image of what is important to the family: being together as a family, no matter where they might be.
“When you look online for what a migrant camp looks like, it’s not great,” Jones Martinez said. “This is a children’s story so we are trying to tell this story about this kid, this family and their lives and use visual queues of ‘Here’s this fun life,’ separating it from what their living conditions are. … It’s not really their home; they travel through and they stay at houses, but really their home is contained in their truck.”
Though the story is one Satterlee wrote more than a decade ago, it wasn’t until she met Jones Martinez that she felt it was time to make the story into a children’s book.
The two met a about a year ago at a time when Satterlee gave piano lessons to Jones Martinez’s young daughter. The two discovered each other’s talents, and immediately began the collaboration.
It’s been a long, on-and-off process for the two artists, fine-tuning every detail until the book is just right.
Through months of drafting, rewriting, online research and trying new sketches, the two will debut the book June 2 at the Sierra Vista Co-op artisan market — located at 96 S. Carmichael Ave. — and hold a reading and signing at Get Lit. Bookshop at 1502 E. Fry Blvd. The book will be on sale at local stores for $10.
“This has been a process of going back-and-forth,” Jones Martinez said. “We were deciding what we wanted the characters to look like, character development.”
Satterlee spent a lot of time with the story, but it wasn’t until the last few months she decided to release “A Migrant Story” to the world.
“It is just a story I had to tell,” she said. “It’s also a story that had to be told by a kid’s point of view. … It’s for the kids.”
To Jones Martinez, “A Migrant Story” can be used as an educational tool for both children and adults to learn about families and migrants from a child’s perspective.
“It’s important for kids to hear the story from a different perspective,” she said. “A different perspective from what they might hear on the news or maybe from what their parents are telling them.
“I think it’s important to see people as people.”